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Ain't Misbehavin' (musical) facts for kids

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Ain't Misbehavin'
Original Cast Recording
Music Fats Waller
Lyrics Various Artists
Book Murray Horwitz
Richard Maltby Jr.
Productions 1978 New York cabaret
1978 Broadway
1979 West End
1982 US television
1988 Broadway revival
1992 European tour
1995 US National tour
1995 West End revival
2008 US National tour
2019 Off-West End
Awards Tony Award for Best Musical
Drama Desk Outstanding Musical

Ain't Misbehavin' is a musical revue with a book by Murray Horwitz and Richard Maltby Jr., and music by various composers and lyricists as arranged and orchestrated by Luther Henderson. It is named after the song by Fats Waller (with Harry Brooks and Andy Razaf), "Ain't Misbehavin'".

The musical is a tribute to the black musicians of the 1920s and 1930s who were part of the Harlem Renaissance, an era of growing creativity, cultural awareness, and ethnic pride, and takes its title from the 1929 Waller song "Ain't Misbehavin'." It was a time when Manhattan nightclubs like the Cotton Club and the Savoy Ballroom were the playgrounds of high society and Lenox Avenue dives were filled with piano players banging out the new beat known as swing. Five performers present an evening of rowdy, raunchy, and humorous songs that encapsulate the various moods of the era and reflect Waller's view of life as a journey meant for pleasure and play.


Ain't Misbehavin' opened in the Manhattan Theatre Club's East 73rd Street cabaret on February 8, 1978. The cast included Irene Cara, Nell Carter, André DeShields, Armelia McQueen, and Ken Page and was staged by Arthur Faria, now recognized as one of the original authors, and directed by Maltby. The New York Times reviewer wrote: "The show moves with the zing and sparkle of a Waller recording-filled with bright melodies and asides." Its reception was such that it was decided to develop it into a full-scale production.

The musical opened on Broadway at the Longacre Theatre on May 9, 1978, and transferred to the Plymouth Theatre and then to the Belasco Theatre and closed on February 21, 1982, after 1604 performances and fourteen previews. Maltby was the director, with musical staging and choreography by Arthur Faria. The original cast featured Nell Carter, André DeShields, Armelia McQueen, Ken Page, and Charlayne Woodard. Luther Henderson, who adapted Waller's music for the revue, appeared as the production's original pianist. Replacements later in the run included Debbie Allen, Yvette Freeman, Adriane Lenox, and Alan Weeks. An original cast recording was released by RCA Victor.

The West End production opened on March 22, 1979, at Her Majesty's Theatre. DeShields and Woodard were joined by Evan Bell, Annie Joe Edwards, and Jozella Reed. It was revived in London in 1995 at the Tricycle Theatre and then the Lyric Theatre, with Debby Bishop, Dawn Hope, Melanie Marshall, Sean Palmer, and Ray Shell. A London revival cast recording was released by First Night.

On June 21, 1982, NBC broadcast the revue with the original Broadway cast.

A Broadway revival with the same director, choreographer, and cast as the original 1978 production opened on August 15, 1988, at the Ambassador Theatre, where it ran for 176 performances and eight previews. Frank Rich, in his review for The New York Times, wrote "In their scrupulous re-creation of the Fats Waller show that first electrified Broadway a decade ago, the original cast and creators have conjured the same between-the-wars dream world as before... Though almost bereft of dialogue, this musical anthology expands beyond its form to become a resurrection of a great black artist's soul. Perhaps the key to the musical's approach, as conceived by the director Richard Maltby Jr., is its willingness to let Waller speak simply and eloquently for himself, through his art but without show-biz embroidery."

In 1995, a national tour directed and choreographed by Faria starred the Pointer Sisters, Eugene Barry-Hill, and Michael-Leon Wooley. Although it never reached Broadway as originally planned, a recording of highlights from the show was released by RCA.

Beginning in November 2008 and lasting until at least May 2009, season two American Idol contestants Frenchie Davis, Trenyce Cobbins and winner Ruben Studdard starred in the 30th anniversary national tour of the show. A new cast recording has been made and is available on the Rhino label.

Song list

Awards and nominations

Original Broadway production

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
1978 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Musical Won
Outstanding Actor in a Musical Ken Page Won
André DeShields Nominated
Outstanding Actress in a Musical Nell Carter Won
Charlayne Woodard Nominated
Outstanding Choreography Arthur Faria Nominated
Theatre World Award Nell Carter Won
Armelia McQueen Won
Tony Award Best Musical Won
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical Nell Carter Won
Charlayne Woodard Nominated
Best Direction of a Musical Richard Maltby, Jr. Won
Best Choreography Arthur Faria Nominated

Original London production

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
1979 Laurence Olivier Award Musical of the Year Nominated

1982 NBC broadcast

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
1982 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series Nominated
Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program Nell Carter Won
André DeShields Won
Outstanding Choreography Arthur Faria Nominated
Outstanding Achievement in Music Direction Nominated
Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Variety or Music Series or Special Nominated
Outstanding Technical Direction, Camerawork, Video for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special Nominated
Outstanding Video Tape Editing for a Limited Series or a Special Nominated

1988 Broadway revival

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
1988 Tony Award Best Revival of a Musical Nominated

30th anniversary revival tour

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
2010 Grammy Award Best Musical Theater Album Nominated
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